Jabar Khan works on an appliqué ahead of rath yatra and (right) Khan stands in front of his works at his workshop at Pipili. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati
Jabar Khan is a happy man. Like in previous years, he has bagged contracts to supply appliqué (chandua) work for the chariots of Lord Jagannath from various parts of the country this year as well. He has been busy for the past month, not finding time even for his afternoon nap.
"I don't want anyone to find a single mistake in my work. I am happy when people appreciate my work and send photos of canopies covering the chariots which are being pulled by thousands of devotees on the rath yatra day<>," he said. This year he got orders to supply appliqué material for the yatra from Gada Kujanga in Jagatsinghpur, Jashipur in Mayurbhanj and the Bokaro Steel Plant.
"Earlier, I had received work orders even from Japan, where the people from Odisha observe rath yatra every year. But they change the canopy of the chariot and use new appliqué material once only in three to four years," he said.
Khan, 61, who has a workshop at Pipili, about 20km from Bhubaneswar on way to Puri, said: "I have been doing the rath work for the past 10 years. I have also got work order from Paralakhemundi where the chariots look similar to those in Puri. They also have a Gajapati ruler like the one in Puri who is revered by all. Like Puri, they also observe the same rath rituals. The people of Paralakhemundi and their administration are quite happy with my work."
"I am really hurt when people try to influence others not to award any rath work to me as I belong to the Muslim community. They try to create communal disharmony between the two communities who have been living here peacefully since generations. For me, work is God. I always give my best to work."
Khan visits Puri every year during rath yatra to see the Lords mounted on the chariots. "Each religion talks about tolerance and advocates due respect to other faiths. A devout person can never show any disrespect to any religion. When I get rath work, I feel elated."
Khan said: "The one important reason to visit Puri during the rath yatra is to see the work on the canopies covering the chariots. I watch these decorations carefully. I do this as I want to learn and ensure that there are no mistakes in my work. I also consult the scholars of the Jagannath culture. Even then if someone finds mistakes, I take it in my stride but I don't ignore it."
Describing the hard work behind making of the canopies of the chariots, he said: "The right combination of colours, cloths and thread is important to make it gorgeous and attractive."
He said the chariot of Lord Jagannath had a yellow and red colour canopy, which was dotted with many appliqué works. Similarly, the chariot of Balabhadra has a green and red colour canopy, and the chariot of Subhadra a black and red canopy.
However, Khan had a grudge against the administration. "No efforts have been made by the administration to give a boost to Pipili's appliqué work. Since a new bypass road has been constructed and opened to the people going to Puri, tourist footfall has dropped at Pipili. If the state government allows at least four-wheelers coming from Puri to go through Pipili Bazar, there will be some business," he said.
Earlier, at Khan's factory, Diamond Appliqué Workshop, there were nearly 80 to 90 workers. "I used to pay Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10 lakh as wages to the labourers. But last month, I paid only Rs 50,000, which shows a decline in the trade, he said.